The death of George Floyd while under police custody earlier this year sparked outrage across the globe. Then, in June, Bristolian Black Lives Matter protestors toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston—one of many actions that reflected Britons’ discontent with how black people continue to be treated in America, the UK and beyond. At Seeker, we want to do what we can to help tackle this racial inequality. So, this month, we’ve been celebrating Black History Month, with a focus on positive black stories that inspire. Here, we discuss the importance of this celebration, and what we’ve learned.
The importance of celebrating black British history
Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in 1987.
The aim? For the local London community to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about the British history that wasn’t being taught in schools.
Now, Black Lives Matter protests around the world are sparking a commitment among individuals and organisations alike to educate themselves about black history, heritage and culture.
By educating ourselves about racism, and gaining a deeper understanding of what it means, we can stand in solidarity against it.
Why Seeker wants to tackle racial inequality
Racial inequality is a huge issue in our industry—in 2019, only 4.7% of C-suite executives came from ethnic minorities.
Digital agencies have a long way to go, and we don’t want to just stand by and do nothing. By highlighting all the amazing achievements of black Britons throughout history and today, we hope to become more visible allies and, in turn, help work towards a more diverse workforce.
After all, ethnically diverse companies aren’t only happier companies, they’re also more likely to be profitable. So while financial gain isn’t our motivation, how can businesses argue with that?
Seeker recently conducted a diversity and inclusion survey, and we’d like to share some of the results*:
We want to encourage transparency when it comes to workplace diversity, and will continue to monitor and review what we can do to encourage diversity in our team, and in the industry.
What Seeker is doing to tackle racial inequality
Many huge brands have gotten involved in the Black History Month celebrations, from Instagram’s #ShareBlackStories (used in over 170,000 posts at the time of writing) to ITV’s idents that celebrate the role of black history and culture in British society as we know it today.
So while we may not have this kind of national reach, we’re passionate about doing our bit from the ground up—sharing important moments in black history with our team and, with any luck, inspiring them to learn more and take action.
How? Seeker celebrated Black History Month using a four-tiered approach:
- Open discussion
Each week during October, we focused on a different area of black history—combining each of the important elements above to help paint a picture of some of the most interesting people and historical or cultural moments.
Of course, due to Covid-19, we’re currently working remotely. So the information was shared with our team via our #BLM Slack channel, with daily updates including all kinds of information—news articles, podcasts, feature films, playlists and more—encouraging everyone to share their own thoughts and recommendations along the way.
Shout out to our Finance Manager, Alyssa, who shared this insightful interview with Donald Glover from The New Yorker.
Week 1: Education and History
We kicked off close to home, with our very own Campaign Executive, Chizi, appearing on a BBC Radio Wales panel to discuss education reform. We found it hugely insightful, and we strongly recommend you check it out!
We then provided the resources to find out more about various important figures and events in Britain’s black history, from Paul Stephenson and the Bristol bus boycott, to a deep dive into the Windrush Scandal.
Rather than a discussion about what slavery is (something we were taught about at school), we wanted to discuss key black people who have made a difference, and turn the narrative into a positive one. People like the extraordinary Olaudah Equiano, a former black slave who was an integral part of the British abolition movement.
We also looked to the future, asking questions about our approach to education such as: why is a black curriculum important, and how can we ensure it’s introduced?
Finally, we introduced our new book club—starting with The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla.
First and foremost, we hope it’s an interesting read! But we also hope to encourage the whole team to take part in more open and honest discussions about the perceptions of immigrants of colour in the UK.
Week 2: Inspirational Women
With so many inspirational black women to choose from, it was hard to pick a shortlist. But we decided to highlight the great work and activism of:
- Dianne Abbot, Britain’s first black female MP
- Ella Baker, ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’
- Madam C J Walker, entrepreneur and activist
- Michelle Obama—we hope you know this one! But there is so much more to learn…
- Mary Bowser, Civil War spy and racial justice advocate
Any names on this list you don’t recognise? We highly recommend clicking through to find out more, doing a bit of research (Hello, Uncle Google), or taking a look at 100 Great Black Britons 2020 and finding out more about the women’s stories that most resonate with you.
Week 3: Positive Change
In our third week of British History Month celebrations, we wanted to focus on more recent and relatable iconic figures who have not only enabled many people to gain a deeper understanding of black issues, but also made a change for the better—be that in the arts, politics or society.
Again, we’d do these people a disservice if we tried to convey all their great work in one short blog round-up, but here are a few highlights before you delve deeper:
- Naomi Campbell, the first black model to feature on the cover of British Vogue and a fundraiser and spokesperson for an array of environmental, human rights and global health charities.
- Michaela Coel, actress, screenwriter, director, producer, and creator of hit TV series I May Destroy You who is shining a light on black talent on, and behind, screen.
- Stormzy, rapper, publisher and activist who has donated £500,000 to fund scholarships for disadvantaged students.
- Edward Enninful, the first black editor of Vogue who has turned the ‘white-run glossy of the bourgeois oblivious into a diverse and inclusive on-point fashion platform’.
- David Lammy, British Labour MP for Tottenham since 2000 who, among many other issues, has passionately advocated for black history in the school curriculum.
Week 4: Mental Health
We dedicated our final week of Black History month to Bristol-based charity Black Minds Matter UK—donating £5000 to the cause and highlighting their fantastic work to the Seeker team.
As NHS therapy isn’t always available, the charity’s aim is to connect black individuals and families in the UK with certified, professional, black practitioners for sessions as soon as possible. Any money raised helps to pay in full for therapy sessions for those in need.
It’s a local charity and worthwhile cause—one that we at Seeker feel particularly passionate about. If you feel the same (and can afford to contribute) please donate on the Black Minds Matter UK GoFundMe page today.
What did we learn?
We’ve taken away so much from all the amazing resources that have been shared over the past month, so huge thanks to Chizi, Sinead and Damo for all their research, passion, effort and support to help bring Black History Month to life.
The more you learn, the more you realise there is to celebrate, understand, dissect, question and bring to light. Slack has been a brilliant tool to convey all this information during the coronavirus pandemic, and once things return a little more to normal, we hope to turn next year’s Black History Month celebrations into an interactive office event.
We’re also aware that Black History Month and Black Lives Matter are important topics that shouldn’t only be discussed for one month of the year, so we’ll continue to educate, teach and share resources on our permanent Slack channel, throughout 2020 and beyond. We want to encourage forums, keep the discussions flowing and talk about these important issues together.
From our green-fingered volunteering to our wellness program, we’d love you to delve deeper into the culture at Seeker. And if you’d like to work with this passionate bunch of SEO mentalists? Drop us a message—we’d love to hear from you.
*Seeker conducted a diversity and inclusion survey earlier this year, with employees describing their ethnicity as the following: 83.3% White, 3.3% Mixed Ethnicity, 3.3% Asian, 3.3% Black, 3.3% any other ethnic group.